Our backyard holly tree was covered with big red berries…
Until God rang the dinner bell.
We had long expected a flock of familiar robins to arrive for their annual end-of-winter feast, but this spread was not set for them. The invited guests were cedar waxwings!
Cedar waxwings can be found almost anywhere in North America, but are an uncommon sight here in our coastal region of Virginia. Occasionally, they can be spotted on the outskirts of a flock of robins, or in small flutterings of a dozen or so that appear and vanish quickly, but on the first Monday morning of April, about sixty of these beauties visited our very own bird buffet!
They first clustered around the globe of mistletoe growing in one of our oaks, snatching small white berries as a sort of appetizer for the bigger meal nearby. Then, they began to gorge themselves on the holly berries.
Unlike the robins who start at the top of tree and methodically work their way down to the last fruit on the lowest branch, the waxwings attacked the berries randomly in patches. A waxwing can hold up to thirty berries in its crop, a pouch located in its throat, and each bird seemed to be stocking up!
Their excited “tsees” and frantic fluttering in the branches attracted the attention of other wildlife. An anxious mockingbird protecting his territory tried in vain to scatter the invaders. An alert squirrel rescued some of his suddenly dwindling food supply by biting off the ends of berry laden branches and running them back to his nest. And, a giddy birdwatcher (me) hurriedly left his breakfast to rush outside with his camera and take picture after picture.
For three days, the cedar waxwings would drop by, enjoy a meal, hang out, feed their little ones, frustrate the mocker, and then vanish. As long as there were berries, they’d reappear suddenly and resume their feast. Of course, as soon as the last morsel was gone, so were they.
While the squirrel and the mockingbird are still here, looking a lot less stressed, I hope the waxwings remember this spot and come back to dine with us again.